By Ehichioya Ezomon
The media have been awash with a potential “second” bumpy ride by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to get its “anointed candidates” elected into the principal offices in the Senate of the National Assembly, where it has a comfortable majority in both Chambers.
Considering the 2015 fiasco, can’t the party avoid a case of “once beaten, twice shy”? Perhaps, if it changes its strategies! But the omen isn’t looking good, as it seemingly got off on the wrong foot, and left its flanks open by putting the cart before the horse!
For instance, why would the APC announce its choice of a candidate for Senate President before deciding on how to delineate offices for Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones; and meet other aspirants to sound them out on why it “settled” for a particular senator?
There’re already voices of dissent from among its elected members into the Ninth Assembly, with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cheering the dissenters on, in the hope of gaining, as it did in 2015, from the division in the party.
Indeed, the PDP appears to be dictating how the lawmakers will vote their leadership. Its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, has referenced Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), as “forbidding” external influence in the election of the officers.
Section 50 provides that: “There shall be:- (a) a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves; and (b) a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.”
If Ologbondiyan’s subtle blackmail isn’t enough, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo) has warned that: “No party should tell us what to do; they should, please, allow us to make our careful choice of who becomes the Senate President. If the party (APC) decides, you will be surprised that what happened in 2015 will also happen.”
By the weekend, the PDP had reportedly decided to field a candidate for the Senate President, praying that with a “block vote” by its over 40 members, and additional ballots from “disgruntled” APC senators, it would be able to overcome the party’s majority at the election.
Think about this set up: The PDP will field one candidate, while the APC will have five “candidates” in Ahmad Lawan, Ali Ndume, Danjuma Goje, Abdullahi Adamu and Orji Uzor Kalu scrambling for the votes of about 60 senators of the party.
It would be a walk in the park for the minority party to the Senate presidency – an unparalleled parliamentary “record” in our clime, and an elevation from the Deputy Senate President’s seat the PDP clinched in 2015.
Well, this can only happen if the APC’s unable to put its house in order. But to prevent such a scenario, it has adopted a “winner-takes-all” approach. And the party Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, has affirmed that the platform has the numbers (majority), and its members must occupy all principal positions, and the chairmanship of the strategic committees.
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Yet again, the APC should heed PDP’s advice, as delivered by its Chairman, Uche Secondus, thus: “It is wrong to assume that about more than one-third of the legislature will not be asked to support (decide) the emergence of its leadership.” Isn’t that a clear-enough signal?
It’s heart-warming, though, for APC members, that President Muhammadu Buhari is getting involved in the selection process, whereas in 2015, he “stood aloof,” asserting that he could work with any leadership of the National Assembly.
And the result is what he lately termed “some actions and decisions of the 8th Assembly regrettable,” ostensibly stemming from the frosty relationship between the Executive and Legislature, which has had adverse effects on the smooth running of the government since 2015.
Certainly, it’s to prevent such a scenario that the President has sanctioned the APC endorsement of Ahmad Lawan (North-East) for Senate President – the same position the party propositioned him in 2015.
However, other aspirants for the Senate President: Messrs Ali Ndume (North-East), Danjuma Goje (North-East) and Abdullahi Adamu (North Central), who were in attendance at the Aso Villa meeting, where the issue of the Senate presidency was “ratified,” allegedly didn’t buy the idea of “imposition” of Lawan.
In the aftermath, Senator Ndume addressed a press conference to denounce as “unconstitutional” the Oshiomhole-announced “endorsement,” and vowed to remain in the race. Senators Goje and Adamu were also reportedly evaluating their chances.
Then, out of the blue came reports of Senator-elect, Dr. Kalu (South-East), threatening to contest for the Senate President if the APC failed to allocate the office of Senate Deputy President to his zone, “in the interest of equity and justice.”
This is certainly a throwback to the 2015, when “ambitious” lawmakers (in)advertently subverted the APC directives on the choice of the principal officers, thereby paving the way for the PDP to sneak in to produce the Senate co-leadership.
The APC had described that election a “parliamentary coup,” as Saraki (APC, Kwara) was elected Senate President, but Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu) was chosen as Senate Deputy President.
The party also had to “sweat” to get its members fixed in other positions: Senate Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Majority Whip and Deputy Majority Whip, and lost strategic committees to PDP members, thanks to the opposition’s “working agreement” with the Saraki camp.
And here we are four years later, in 2019, and the APC is about to swallow another bitter pill due to a series of mistakes and missteps in the scramble for the leadership of the National Assembly.
The remedy? Serious engagement, and pacification of the “disgruntled” lawmakers in its fold, and checkmating the antics of the opposition PDP for a repeat performance in the Ninth Assembly! Only tact and appeasement, not braggadocio, can achieve the targeted goals for the APC.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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